Targets at-risk kids
Champs isn’t just an after-school program, it’s an exercise of the heart aimed at helping 13 at-risk children get back on track and stay healthy at Luling Elementary School.
“School work is rigorous and challenging, and they have needs that need to be met – and they have all this energy,” said teacher Dana Dufrene, who helped organize the Champs program. “I know what fitness does for me because I’m an instructor at Anytime Fitness, and I know it helps think and focus.”
According to Raymond Guedry, who along with his wife, Dara, with River Parish CrossFit in Luling are providing the CrossFit program, it’s working.
The two go to the Luling school at no charge every Thursday for an hour and work out with these students.
Dufrene said she and fellow teacher Dottie Watson couldn’t get a grant to provide Champs, but that didn’t stop them.
“We’re just trying to spread love,” Dufrene said. “These kids need love and structure, and a means to be all they can be.”
They reached out to River Parish CrossFit in Luling and the Guedrys agreed to help provide the CrossFit training at no charge. This is their first time doing this in a school, but they are veteran trainers who have worked with Hahnville High School’s soccer and basketball teams for years.
“It’s been pretty successful,” Raymond said. “The kids are super excited. They’re paying attention.”
For many people, this would seem a pretty hard workout, but he said they’re spinning it where the children think they’re playing a game.
“The camaraderie is unprecedented from what the teachers are telling us,” Raymond added. “We’re getting a bunch of high fives. It’s just a positive atmosphere for these kids and that’s the biggest thing.”
Dufrene said she can’t thank the couple enough for donating their time. She also donates her time, as well as the milk and Gatorade for the one-hour session each week. They also invited the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office Youth Empowerment Program and two deputies to come to the classes.
“It’s worth it,” Dufrene said. “They can do amazing things. They have to trust you and we have to teach them the way that we want our community to be. Each one of them has unique and very special qualities, and it’s worth getting to know them to find out.”
Until these students get to R.K. Smith Middle School, Dufrene said there are no organized sports for the students.
“I want them to learn as much as they can and have access programs they need,” she said of the students. “Doing my job is wonderful, but I just feel that when kids are in need we need to extend the talents we have to them to help better themselves.”
Just three weeks into Champs, Dufrene said she sees a difference with these children.
“Now, I have relationships with these kids,” she said. “I’ve seen them in ways that aren’t so positive, but after school in this program it’s positive. It gets their bodies moving, and they’re good at this. They’re running and jumping and doing pushups. They’re working hard, but they’re smiling.”
At-risk children typically need social skills in how to treat each other, Dufrene said. The classroom also poses challenges for them, and she’s going to their teachers to report how well they’re doing in Champs.
Dufrene also hopes their investment in these students is also an investment in the future.
“I hope they remember someone saw something in them at Luling Elementary whether it was a teacher or the Champs group,” she said. “I hope they know we tried hard to develop them as a whole person and as an individual who is special – and they give that back.”